Well respected for his honest and heartfelt lyrics, singer-songwriter Griffin House is currently on an East Coast tour with friend and fellow musician Matthew Perryman Jones.
“We’re both going to be playing acoustic sets. That’s kind of rare for both of us because we generally either take a band out or have some kind of accompaniment with us,” House said. “We’re looking forward to stripping it down and having some conversation with the audience just playing solo.”
House moved to Nashville in 2003 to pursue music. Since then, he’s been traveling the country and moving audiences everywhere with his confessional and relatable music. I chatted with him before the start of his current tour to find out more about his songwriting process, the stories behind the songs and what’s next in store for Griffin House.
It’s been a while since your last release, has your songwriting process changed at all?
I think the songwriting process has remained the same. Life affects the subject matter. But in terms about how I go about writing, it’s the same way.
Does a song come out better when it’s based on real life or fantasy?
There’s always a little bit of both. A lot of the true stories that I’ve written have been based on real life and then they’ll take maybe a slight fictional turn for the sake of the song, to make the song work better. That’s usually how I go about it. I think a lot of times when you talk in first person people assume that it’s autobiographical but that’s not necessarily always the case.
Are you ever afraid to reveal too much in a song about your own life?
I’ve never been afraid to do that. I think in the beginning when I was writing, I used that more often. I think it was almost extremely confessional and revealing in a way and I think that’s part of what made the songs stick; their vulnerability. It’s a very tricky thing to do. Anybody can be vulnerable and say, ‘This is how I’m feeling and this is who I am.’ If you don’t do it in the right way it comes across as very trite. It’s something I’ve had to learn to work around but I also think that maybe I don’t hold back as much but I’m more conscious of what I’m doing.
Is there a song that means more to you now than when you first wrote it?
“Better Than Love” is a song that has turned out to be something that I play almost every night. At the time when I wrote it, I didn’t really want to write any songs that dealt with love or relationships and it just came out of me. It wasn’t what I was intentionally trying to go after. I was making a record in California with some of the guys in the Heartbreakers and some other really good musicians and I was trying to make more of a rock & roll record.
I wasn’t really all that excited about recording that song. Even when we w ere recording it, I just wanted to get it over with. It turned out to be one of my best songs for sure and one that I think has meant a lot to a lot of people. It just goes to show you that a lot of times the artist has no idea whether or not what he is creating is good. He or she may think that they’re creating the best thing in the world and it turns out to not be so special and other times they don’t think what they’re doing is anything and it turns out to be something really valuable.
“The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind” is one of my favorite tracks on that album. What is the story behind it?
That song was written in a way that was inspired by a girl that I just wanted to take out. We were out on a semi-date together and joked around that she’d marry me if I wrote her a song so I went home and wrote her a song. It was something that started obviously with a sense of humor but it really ended up incorporating a lot of heavier things that were going on under the surface too. It started out as a joke and then it took a multifaceted turn after a while. That song came out of nowhere. That was the same story, I didn’t know what I had until I played it for somebody else later and they said, ‘Oh man, that’s a hit song.’ I had no idea.
I was reading the stories behind some songs on your Website and “Heart of Stone” sounds like it was written subconsciously and after you wrote it you figured out more about your life. Does that happen a lot?
What happens is, a lot of times I see how maybe in my subconscious or underneath the surface I really know what’s going on but I won’t admit it to myself or maybe I’m in denial. So, when I write the answers all come down on the page but I might not see them until after, way after. Maybe a year down the line I’ll look back and go, ‘Oh I really knew what was going on I just wasn’t admitting it to myself in my conscious brain.’
How is the music scene in Nashville different from the rest of the country?
I think there is a sense of community here. First of all, it’s a smaller city so it’s become over the last six or seven years more densely populated with musicians so it’s easier for everyone to know one another. There does seem to be a sense of community. Everybody moved here to make it and a lot of people don’t mind helping each other out along the way and becoming friends and working together. While there’s always probably competition going on, maybe the Southern hospitality thing plays into a little bit where they don’t mind helping out a little bit.
It’s changed a lot since I moved here. When I moved here in 2003 I literally felt like one of the only people doing what I was doing which is an alternative style of music in Nashville, just a songwriter with a guitar. There were a lot of people in the country world and Christian world doing that but I felt there were only a handful of people doing what I was doing. Now, since I’ve been touring over the last five or six years I’ve come back to Nashville and have seen hundreds or thousands of people who have flocked here from all over the country to start doing music and I think it’s really had an influx of a lot of people since I moved here under that demographic.
How do you stand out being one of so many?
I don’t try to at all. First I moved here and tried to play as much as I could and tried to stand out as much as I could. Now I’m not on the scene at all. I’m actually not even that social. I have a routine where I go and I work on my hobbies that I do in my spare time. I’m a dad and I spend time at home with my wife and I do some yoga. When I go out on the road I’m in front of people. I don’t really mix it up in Nashville a whole lot.
What do you wish you knew before perusing music?
I don’t know. I was very green when I got here. I didn’t really know anything about the music business. It’s easy for me to look back and say, ‘If I had this bit of information then I would have done this differently.’ There’s really no telling where that would have taken me. It’s not like you can know what would have happened if you would have made a different choice. You just know it would be different. A lot of the learning I’ve had, I’m thankful I moved down here a long time ago and I’m still playing music and still enjoying it and still making progress. I can’t really ask for anything more than that. It’s been good.
What can fans expect from you in the next few months?
Well, I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’ve been thinking about maybe compiling a “Best of” record that has 10 or 12 songs that are maybe the most popular ones. Putting them on a record and re-releasing that so that other people can hear my music and have a better idea of what I’m about and what I’ve done over the last decade. That might come first before a brand new record. Maybe there will be a new song on that or something. That’s just an idea but that can very well happen.
What’s going through your mind while you’re onstage performing?
Sometimes you’re a million miles away in the middle of the song. You just get lost and forget where you are for a minute. A lot of the songs have been played so many times that you’re really on automatic. I try to think about singing the words and hitting the notes. It’s pretty simple. I try not to think about anything else other than what I’m doing at the moment and not get ahead of myself, what I’m going to say next or what happened a few minutes ago. It’s a good exercise in really being in the present moment and that’s usually when performances are the best, when you can do that well.
For more on Griffin House and his current tour dates, visit his Website.